Protesters gathered outside an Exeter branch of Starbucks on Saturday to demonstrate against the coffee shops tax avoidance.
Members of different activist groups, including Occupy Exeter, met up at 2pm in a busy city centre on Saturday 8th December to protest against Starbucks but also highlight the issue of homelessness this Christmas.
The protest was one of over 50 organised by UK Uncut held outside Starbucks in the UK with one branch in London being forced to close after protesters occupied the shop.
Many gathered outside what is now the only Starbucks in the city centre, after a branch on Queen Street shut last month following an internal review, and performed protest theatre, subversive carols (see video) and built a mini-shelter.
Activists also carried signs such as ‘Too little Too latté and ‘making a mochary’ while encouraging the public to sign a petition.
During the protest leaflets were handed out making reference to Michelle Conroy the homeless woman who was killed by a falling tree while sleeping rough in Exeter during the November floods.
The leaflet stated that Starbucks sales were £398 million last year but paid zero tax, adding:
‘What could this missing tax money buy? How about a dedicated homeless shelter, so that people who’ve lost their homes don’t have to risk death or serious illness sleeping in tents in all weathers? The County Council in Devon have cut funding for homelessness by 44% in 2 years, from £6.2 million to £3.5 million. Exeter has lost 204 “supported bed” spaces for homeless people.’
In the last 14 years of trading in the UK Starbucks has paid £8.6m in corporation tax however have paid nothing in the last three years.
Starbucks has claimed it expects to pay around £10m in corporation tax for each of the next two years.
In an open letter to customers on Thursday, Kris Engskov, managing director of Starbucks UK, said the company had begun "a process of enhancing trust with customers and the communities that we have been honoured to serve for the past 14 years".
And on Saturday a spokesperson for Starbucks’ UK￼ head office said:
"Our highest priority is and remains the safety of our customers and employees. We trust that UK Uncut will respect it. We offered to meet with UK Uncut to discuss their concerns and make the protest a safe event for all involved. This invitation remains open.
Katie Moudry, a spokesperson for the Exeter protest said:
‘Although Starbucks have offered to pay the contribution, tax isn't a contribution it is something that you have to pay just like we as individuals do. We simply feel that big corporations should have to pay their tax like we have to do.’
Going on to add: ‘The protest has been organised for a couple of months now and we are seeing a good reaction from the public.’